Kalmar Since 1881
For 130 years architects and design professionals have
sought Kalmar to produce bespoke lighting. Thanks to
namesake Julius August Kalmar’s values of design and
fabrication excellence, almost immediately after the
company’s 1881 launch it presented celebrated custom
cast-bronze works at Gewerbe Ausstellung Wien, in
1888, and the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.
Julius Thedor Kalmar took the business in a new
direction. A student at the Vienna school of applied arts
under Josef Hoffmann, the founder’s son introduced
Kalmar to the most progressive movements in decorative
arts. By 1925 he was selling designs in Josef Frank and
Oskar Wlach’s influential avant-garde furnishings shop
Haus und Garten. Six years later, Kalmar was making
luminaires based solely on Austrian Werkbund schemes.
As an advocate of burgeoning modernism and an
exemplar of collaboration and quality, Kalmar played
a significant role in this era of design. The company
realized lighting concepts for Werkbund members
like Frank and Wlach, Clemens Holzmeister,
Oswald Haerdtl, Ernst Plischke, and Oskar Strnad.
Installations in its Stock Exchange, Opera, and
Burgtheater made Kalmar synonymous with a new
Viennese aesthetic, generally a marriage of industry
and handcraft that was stripped of ornament, reverent
toward materials, and honest about construction.
Moving beyond a view of its lighting as humble fixtures
intended as background, in the 1960’s Kalmar began
producing decorative glass objects of many scales,
which increased demand for the company’s products
exponentially. In the early 1990’s, fourth generation
owner Thomas Calice returned Kalmar to its bespoke
roots and ceased production of stock inventory.
Through Calice’s leadership Kalmar’s renown continues
to expand. In this period it has installed myriad
chandeliers and other custom luminaires, in a variety of
meticulously executed styles, in international landmarks
that include the presidential palace of the Kremlin,
Tretyakov State Gallery, Shanghai Grand Theater,
Hotel Okura Tokio and the Leows Miami Beach Hotel.